Friday, August 31, 2012

Perils of Pauline's Potluck


There is no Pauline. I made that up. There used to be a radio show way before my time called "The Perils of Pauline." I think Pauline was one of those shrieking women who always got kidnapped by a long-moustached Evil McSnead who tied her up over railroad tracks.  I think each episode ended in a cliffhanger, and began with Pauline being rescued by a do-gooder type until she got in trouble again.  My potluck last month was kind of like that. The cliffhanger part was that each day I wasn't sure if anyone was going to come to it. 

While I have been to many potlucks on Maui, I have not hosted many gatherings because our parking area is so small that to have more than 2 or 3 people over if they are not all in the same car is near impossible. Our driveway is so long and narrow that the only parking is on the street, and the street is kind of hilly. Technically, it's called a flag lot, defined with the driveway being the flag post and our "yard" being the flag.  So it would require a serious person who was willing to park at a distance and walk, probably in the rain since it rains in Haiku, trying to hold a potluck dish without getting it wet, stumbling along with a cell phone flashlight down a dark and narrow driveway. 

I entreated a friend, Suzanne Frew, to host it at her house in Kula which has ample street parking and is big enough to host more than 2 other people.  Then we tried to schedule it, the tricky part, since Suzanne's schedule is like a moving target - if you see Suzanne today, could she be on a plane tomorrow? Does Suzanne know where on the planet she'll be tomorrow? We did manage to pin down a time and date, and then had to "repin" it since the target date moved. I almost called this post, Potluck Disaster Planning, because Suzanne is a disaster planner, meaning not a planner of disasters, but a planner to prevent and manage disasters, and because this potluck was potentially a disaster in the planning. 

Then the next thing was to invite people, and this is where I made a very big mistake. Never rely only on social media to invite people to something, unless it's something that you can invite so many people to (like hundreds) and statistically expect a small percent of them to actually respond. 

Not a great RSVP rate!
Lesson 1: Don't rely on Facebook. 
Lesson 2: Don't rely on Facebook.
Lesson 3: Don't rely on Facebook.

Did I say that enough times? I found out that most of the people I invited don’t check their Facebook account enough, don’t read the email invitations or notifications from Facebook, and don’t look at the event reminders in the upper right corner. Even if they had seen an event reminder or notification, they get invited to so many events on Facebook, mostly by people they don't know, that they totally bypassed it. I might as well have written my event invitation in Swahili, stuffed it in a bottle, corked it, and floated it in the ocean. It would have been as effective. 

I knew that Maui people tend to be not terribly responsive, so I wasn't too worried, but it did seem odd that I was getting no response. I figured that most people didn't want to "commit" to an event, because "committing" to something is not a Maui kind of thing to do. People like to be free to show up, or not show up, or show up very  late. Spontaneity is a very Maui kind of thing. 

Still yet, I was getting concerned. In fact, the day of the potluck, I randomly called and emailed a few people and then found out that they didn't get the invitation. Or said they didn't and didn't want to hurt my feelings. Suzanne later said that Maui people are flaky about invitations - she also sends emails and calls people. Another friend says that phoning is best. Ah, who knew? 

While trying to organize this event, I came up with a list of other potential potluck pitfalls:

Not having enough food - would there be enough food at this potluck? Or enough types of food? The worst potlucks I've been to, have involved food running out. People who arrive on time get food, and other people don't. My cliffhanger thought the day of the potluck, was that I knew there'd be plenty of meat for carnivores and salad, but would there be anything else? Was this going to be an Atkins type potluck? Protein, no starch, 1 veggie. 

People show up too early or too late - Most Maui people are notoriously late for events. To get around this, just list the event one hour before you actually want people to show up. But occasionally newer people from the mainland or other super organized types might show up early. Eek. Scurry around trying to clean house, prep food, be social. 

Not enough parking - this part was handled. Parking is also tricky for people in condos since guest parking is often limited, and people have to walk in.

Directions and getting lost. This can happen because sometimes people give an address BUT they do not live in the main house, they live in the ohana (little cottage) behind the main house, or in the driveway around the corner of another house. Or sometimes there are several little cottages at one address, or there is an upstairs unit and a downstairs unit and a unit around the side, so which door to go to? (hint: look for piles of slippers outside the door and listen for noise.) Sometimes two mailboxes have the same number. This really happens. Or, the mailbox and address number are across the street and the house is on the other side of the street. Or the directions involve counting the number of mailboxes and following directions which only make sense if you get them from the host but are not correct if you put the address in google or mapquest. All of this difficulty is multiplied if it's dark outside. 

Hmmm... which mailbox for which house?


Not enough plates, cups, utensils - could happen if there are extra people who show up. Sometimes people invite other people, even if the event specifically invited only a few people. 

Not enough people - hmmm, where have I heard this before? 
Too many people - and too loud, and the neighbors complain, and also, some people are wasted and end up sleeping overnight. Not so much a potluck as a part-AY. 
Wrong people - it's a small island, so you could run into your ex-boss, ex-girlfriend or ex-boyfriend, or ex-BFF. 

Wrong kind of food or food issues. Going to a potluck and not being able to eat anything because of one’s diet. Like being vegetarian or vegan, or gluten free, raw food only, or soy/nut/dairy allergies. Every kind of food preference/restriction exists on Maui, and some people have two or more. In this case, you can't cater to everyone - hopefully they will bring something they can eat. I tried to make this a gluten free potluck to accommodate three gluten free friends, none of whom managed to come, so I wouldn't make that extra effort again unless I had a guaranteed rsvp, something very rare on Maui. 

Potluck behavior. This is a tricky one... At one Thanksgiving potluck, one of the people who was on the clean up crew ended up throwing food away, what other people had brought.  This was sort of distressing, since this was a potluck where people usually take home their food leftovers, not a first date where people are trying to impress each other by not taking home doggy bags. Sometimes people also have a little too much to drink and then are very, very sociable, especially sensitive single new age guys. Often I tell people, "Don't hug me," and this always raises eyebrows, because Maui is a hug capital of the world, but some hugs are just not appropriate. 

Misplacing items and losing shoes. Yes, this can happen anywhere in the world - people can leave potluck dishes or spoons or personal items behind and then you have to track them down. The funniest and strangest potluck I've been to was on Oahu at a 60th birthday bash, and the next morning the host had all sorts of personal items that had been left behind, including underwear, pants, pipes. It was a hell of a party. More commonly, though, if there are a lot of people at a potluck, there are a lot of shoes and slippers outside the door, since it's customary to not wear shoes inside someone's home. Some shoes look alike. You could end up with someone else's "mo' bettah slippahs" ("more better slippers") and they could end up with your ratty pair. If you have shoes you care about, tuck them away in a corner so you can find them easily and so no one else takes them by accident. 

Typical scene outside a potluck: slipper frenzy.

Anyhow, Pauline's perilous potluck turned out fine. The potluck was rescued not by a lot of people, but by the right people showing up. 9 is a good number. Since there was a nostalgia photo-sharing component, this worked out well, because it would have taken hours if more people had showed up. And I learned more than I wanted to know about the perils of using Facebook to handle event invitations. 


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